First, an update: I have now added some annotations to the Links page. I’ve been meaning to take care of that as I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, but at least that’s taken care of. Next, we finally come to an underrated series that I’ve always wanted to review, but never quite had the time to do so due to a long forced hiatus and the breakdown of my laptop. This will also be my first post pertaining to yuri, which I am a big fan of, and I would like to introduce you to Aoi Hana (or Sweet Blue Flowers in English). Aoi Hana is a short, sweet 11-episode series, and it’s rather unlike most typical yuri series.
In the original manga’s story, Fumi and Akira were close childhood friends until Fumi had to move away. Ten years after losing touch with each other, the two girls meet again as high school freshmen. The two struggle to reconnect after so much has changed, and both deal with the trials and tribulations of high school — sometimes independently and sometimes with each other’s help.
First, the opening and ending of this series made a huge impression on me, and the result now is that both opening and ending are some of my top favorites respectively. Now, I cannot find the opening or ending videos online due to them being blocked and copyrighted, but I’ll just give my impressions and try my best. The opening, accompanied by the song “Aoi Hana” by Kukikodan, is simplistic and makes use of simple, yet vibrant colors. There is also a strong meaning here when we see both the main characters, Fumi and Akira, interacting as well. It’s quite hard to explain, but if you watch the opening, you’ll see what I mean. As for the ending, accompanied by the song “Centifolia” by Ceui, the ending is mainly a montage containing illustrations by Takako Shimura, who is the mangaka for the Aoi Hana manga that this series is based on (which is extremely good and I highly recommend reading it!). “Centifolia” is the real star of the ending, as it is a beautiful lulling ballad that to this day remains one of my top favorite songs.
Instead of the over-sexualized or typical “onee-sama” atmosphere (in fact, the term “onee-sama” is rarely used here!) that you see in most yuri series, Aoi Hana instead has a gentle and subtle demeanor about it, and the story is made much more realistic and yet vibrant at the same time. The whole ambient feeling is subtle and calming, with beautiful use of watercolors and scenery, which are also prominent in the colored pages of the manga. The setting is based in Kamakura, Kanagawa, and the cast of Aoi Hana attend either the Fujigaya Girls’ Academy or Matsuoka Girls’ High School. So, we have a cast of four main characters, plus the side characters, all intertwined together through the schools, with the shy Manjoume Fumi and the popular Sugimoto Yasuko attending Matsuoka Girls’ High School, and the cheerful Okudaira Akira and the elegant Ikumi Kyouko attending Fujigaya Girls’ Academy. The stage is set with Fumi and Akira, both of whom were childhood friends but separated for a long time with no contact, meeting each other on a train station not knowing what is in store for them.
Now, don’t go thinking that this series has an all girls cast. In fact, there are also male characters introduced as well, one of whom is a big major part of one of the main characters’ stories. What makes Aoi Hana unique and different from other typical yuri series is that it actually includes male characters and integrate them within the story. This makes Aoi Hana much more realistic and the characters’ reactions more believable. The drama set forth by this character interaction is compelling and yet subtle at the same time, when you consider each of every character’s circumstances. Early in the series, Fumi starts going out with Sugimoto, and Akira supports Fumi as her best friend. However, Akira’s friend, Kyouko, is also in love with Sugimoto but faces an one-sided requited love. Family circumstances have also affected each character’s back story as well, as we will soon learn later on in the series.
The animation is gorgeous as well, with flawless movement and great pace as well. While it may seem slow between episodes, the drama in the middle of an episode will pick you right up and get the story moving. Character design is nice, but nothing too special, and some characters, particularly the side characters, may seem bland possibly due to their small roles. This is, however, not an annoyance to me since every series will have its own weaknesses. Nevertheless, Aoi Hana is a nearly flawless anime series for me, and I adore the whole sweet, ambient atmosphere of Aoi Hana.
There is one last song of praise I must sing for Aoi Hana: the conclusion. I will not spoil anything, but I must say that the conclusion is so sweet and satisfying. It was the perfect ending for me, and the creators did not attempt to dramatize it instead stopping it at a perfect point in the ongoing manga. For that, I applaud the creators for stopping at that point in the manga, as there is still so much to revel in from the manga from that point on. Also, it is the perfect place from which a second season can be started from, which I strongly hope for in the future, considering the manga’s progress. I shall not reveal anymore than necessary, but I would also recommend reading the manga as well, as it is a great yuri manga to read. If you are looking for a nice, short, slow series with compelling drama, and you don’t mind yuri (or in fact love yuri), this is the series for you. Otherwise, look elsewhere. Aoi Hana is a poignant, beautiful series and I am saddened to see that this series is so under-appreciated by many…
P.S. As I had difficulty finding some good wallpapers for this underrated series, I was forced to make some new wallpapers for this series, which were the fourth to the seventh pictures in the post (illustrations are from Takako Shimura). I must admit that they were the main reason for my post’s delay… Enjoy those wallpapers!